St. John’s members embrace prayer

Published 11:24 am Friday, May 4, 2012

Ellen Petersen prays quietly at St. John's Lutheran Church as the church recognizes National Day of Prayer by conducting an all day prayer vigil. — Eric Johnson/

Members of St. John’s Lutheran Church Thursday found an appropriate way to celebrate National Day of Prayer: praying all day.

“The concept is we have prayer going continually,” said Pastor Thomas Ogilvie.

The prayer vigil, which the church capped on both sides with a half-hour service, ran from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It commemorated an event that lands on the first Thursday of May every year, when people across denominations and churches are encouraged to pray, both individually and in groups.

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St. John’s congregation has about 375 members, with an average of 175 to 200 attending weekly. Ogilvie said before the vigil that he hoped to have a large turnout, but didn’t expect a full church.

“It’s a weekday, and there are a lot of other things going on,” he said. “We’re hoping for 30 to 35 people at [each of] the services.” Separate from that number, three people per hour would take 20 minute shifts in the prayer vigil.

The vigil area, a small part of the church’s lounge room sectioned off for privacy, had a signup sheet where volunteers could choose a time. Unlike the services, the 20-minute slots were meant to be independent.


“It’s a time of quiet, personal prayer,” Ogilvie said.

Ellen Petersen, who said she hasn’t participated in such a vigil for a long time, signed up for a 20 minute period in the morning, and another in the afternoon. She said she saw multiple purposes for the National Day of Prayer.

“We want other people to see God through us,” Petersen said, adding that it’s important to leave a Christian heritage for children and grandchildren.

Prayers can range a wide variety of subjects, Ogilvie said. It’s common for people to direct their prayers toward national or global problems, or choose something as close-to-home as matters within the church. Typically, there’s also a personal aspect to it, where people can address their individual concerns.

“It’s time set aside not only to pray for our country but our family,” Petersen said.

Prayer services for Day of Prayer are common, Ogilvie said, and one takes place at the courthouse. But the St. John’s hasn’t tried an all-day vigil before, at least not since Ogilvie arrived at the church in 2009.

“This is the first year we’ve done this kind of setup,” he said.

Twenty to 25 people attended the morning service, Petersen said. She seemed enthusiastic about the new format, and said she hoped it would be something the church did in future years.

Petersen is part of a group on Facebook called “Women of Prayer” that her daughter in Green Bay, Wis. started. Approximately 50 women use the group to exchange prayers.

“Immediately you’re getting responses for prayers,” she said, adding that electronics were a good way of getting prayer needs out quickly.

St. John’s has a similar setup with its prayer chain email. The church used the email to gather volunteers for the vigil, Petersen said.

According to a website on Day of Prayer created by the National Prayer Committee, the first Continental Congress called for a Day of Prayer in 1775. The modern, annual observance stems back to 1952, when the day passed a joint resolution in the U.S. Congress and President Harry S. Truman signed it into law.